December 7, 2004


2 C.I.A. Reports Offer Warnings on Iraq's Path (DOUGLAS JEHL, 12/07/04, NY Times)

A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials.

The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.

The officials described the two assessments as having been "mixed," saying that they did describe Iraq as having made important progress, particularly in terms of its political process, and credited Iraqis with being resilient.

But over all, the officials described the station chief's cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy. [...]

The station chief's cable has been widely disseminated outside the C.I.A., and was initially described by a government official who read the document and who praised it as unusually candid. Other government officials who have read or been briefed on the document later described its contents. The officials refused to be identified by name or affiliation because of the delicacy of the issue. The station chief cannot be publicly identified because he continues to work undercover.

If you're predisposed to favor stability over all else a period of transition can never look good.

The Frustrated Archbishop: A roundup of the past two weeks' good news from Iraq. (ARTHUR CHRENKOFF, December 6, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

It takes a lot to get a man of God annoyed, and Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, is a very frustrated man these days. "It is not all death and destruction," says the archbishop. "Much is positive in Iraq today. . . . Universities are operating, schools are open, people go out onto the streets normally. . . . Where there's a kidnapping or a homicide the news gets out immediately, and this causes fear among the people. . . . Those who commit such violence are resisting against Iraqis who want to build their country."

It's not just the terrorists who, according to His Eminence, are creating problems for Iraq: Elections in January "will be a starting point for a new Iraq," he says. Yet "Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation. . . . Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity. . . . Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose. Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?"

The archbishop has this wish for the international bystanders: "Europe is absent, it's not out there; the United States is on its own. . . . [Europe] must help the Iraqi government to control its borders to prevent the entry of foreign terrorists, [but] also provide economic help to encourage a new form of culture which is open to coexistence, the acceptance of others, respect for the human person and for other cultures. . . . Europe must understand that there is no time to waste on marginal or selfish interests: The entire world needs peace."

Archbishop Sako's frustration is increasingly shared by other Iraqis, who can hardly recognize their country from the foreign media coverage. Westerners, too, both military and civilians, upon their return are often finding to their surprise and concern they had lived and worked in a different country to that their loved ones, friends and neighbors back home saw every night on the news. "Our" Iraq is a place of violence, uncertainty, and frustration; "their" Iraq all that, but also so much more: work and renewal, hope and enthusiasm, new opportunities and new possibilities. Here are the last two weeks' worth of stories you might have missed while watching "our" Iraq on the news:

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2004 12:00 AM

Aren't CIA cables supposed to be confidential? No wonder the PRC treats our nuclear facilities like a Wal-Mart and the KGB were essentially running American counterintelligence for 3 decades. But one thing is for certain, American intelligence agencies can sure entrap overeager Jewish lobbyists on trumped-up charges, with no factual basis.

Posted by: Bart at December 7, 2004 6:24 AM

"They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy. [...]"

What weasel words. This sentence, boiled down to its essence says: "Things will get worse unless they don't."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 7, 2004 7:18 AM

OJ's comment is spot-on. This is the CIA saying that now's the time to install a strongman to keep a lid on the Wogs for us.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 7, 2004 8:23 AM

Jehl's story has so many "authoritative" names who declined to be named spouting off on the Iraq situation I'm surprised the Times even put a real byline on the thing, instead of listing it as being written "By a High-Placed Reporting Source".

It's also another piece of evidence in the case for Porter Goss going in and all but blowing up the hierarchy within Langley to start over from scratch.

Posted by: John at December 7, 2004 8:56 AM